Let's be clear. McCloughan was not a fan of Mays as a player. Echoing the criticisms that countless others have made, he told local reporters last year that Mays had stiff hips, no coverage instincts, that he took poor angles to the ball and that he had poor ball skills. Unless he was pulling the biggest con job of all time, he made it crystal clear that Mays would not be a 49er as long as he was in charge.
Of course he wound up being correct, though probably not in the way he imagined.
McCloughan was a strong believer in drafting players based on their film, not by their combine results. Then again, all off-season Director of Player Personnel Trent Baalke and coach Mike Singletary have made similar comments. Drafting a guy like Mays however, flies in the face of those statements. Everyone knows his "measurables" are off the charts. It's the game film that caused him to tumble down to the 49th pick.
It cannot be argued that Mays is an exceptional athlete. He's 6'3 and 230 pounds but runs like a deer. He wowed everybody with his 40-yard dash time at the combine. There have been comparisons made between him and Carolina LB Thomas Davis, another college safety who didn't have the range to cover in the pros, but has been an excellent weakside linebacker for the Panthers.
Singletary explained that he doesn't know yet what he has in his newest toy - and also, he hinted, neither did his former coach, Pete Carroll, who's now the big cheese with the Seattle Seahawks. "I think Taylor Mays is one of those guys that I really don't know what he as asked to do at USC," he said, adding, "I think when you look at the film and you see the guy, he's back 20 yards, it's pretty amazing. When he came in for the interview [he said] there were just some things they he was just not asked to do."
While it's doubtful that Mays was specifically ordered to never intercept more than one pass a season by Carroll, it sure sounds like Singletary thinks he's an in-the-box strong safety who was out of place as a centerfielder with the Trojans. If he's indeed confused by Carroll's actions, he isn't alone.
It seems the pupil is rather miffed at his former teacher as well.
Surprisingly, Mays took a couple of shots at Carroll during his conference call with local reporters, sounding like a jilted lover after Carroll took Texas safety Earl Thomas over him in the first round. "I thought from the relationship we had and the things he said I had to be aware of, things I needed to do, everything he led me to believe, his actions were the complete opposite," he said.
Mays was angry not just because Carroll didn't take him, but also because he felt that poor coaching caused his value to drop in scouts' eyes. "[He told me] I didn't have anything to worry about, that my game was okay, that my back pedaling was fine, my tackling was fine," Mays said. "It's all the things I asked. What do I need to work on? What do I need to show? All these points I was kind of led to think that I was okay."
Now Mays is moving on. He called being drafted 49th "bittersweet," but added that he wanted, "to play for a coach like [Mike] Singletary and for a physical team like the 49ers who will punch you in the face," while also making sure to speak reverently about Ronnie Lott, the Hall-of-Fame San Francisco safety who is also a former Trojan. "I'm going to emulate him and live up to his legacy," he said.
Lott meanwhile told Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News, "I look forward to seeing him as an All-Pro." The two have been exchanging texts for the past week.
Mays also mentioned that he's very familiar with 49ers safety Dashon Goldson, having watched him play at the University of Washington while he was a high schooler in Seattle, calling Goldson "an underrated athlete" and sounding very excited about the chance to play alongside him.
If nothing else the 49ers got themselves an extremely motivated player. "I have the biggest chip on my shoulder of anyone in the draft," he said, emphatically. Naturally the season opener on September 12 is at Seattle.